The traditional Eastern European Gaming Summit (EEGS) held on the end of November, in Inter Expo Center, Sofia, for 8th consecutive year became a hot spot for discussions and current gaming trends presentations. Experts, professionals, international associations representatives from offline and online gaming and tourism industry as well as national regulators from around the world chose Sofia in order to discuss the latest trends and topics of the gaming industry. EEGS is held under the patronage of the Bulgarian Trade Association of Manufacturers and Operators in the gaming industry (BTAMOGI) and since its first edition in 2008 it has become a networking and discussion nexus in Eastern Europe.
More than 50 distinguished industry experts have presented their competent opinions and practical experience in 2 days covering 14 panels dedicated to the crucial steps of the gaming industry evolution during the year. Over 250 industry representatives from more than 27 countries amongst were Bulgaria, Romania, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Malta, Netherlands, Belgium, Greece, Turkey, Spain, Italy, Croatia, Slovenia, Lithuania and even China and Unites States.
In the scope of the panel discussions during the first day of EEGS were presented the latest legislation updates from European countries, fraud prevention and money laundering, IMGL Masterclass, top challenges which the Eastern European industry is facing, the advantages and myths about the convergence between land-based and online gaming, measures and examples for responsible gambling and interactive discussions on how to enhance customer experience in both land-based and online operations.
During the first two panels international gaming law experts presented key regulatory changes from Western and Eastern Europe. Among the highlights were the opening of the Romanian market for remote gaming operators, new law amendments in Lithuania and Czech Republic and overview of the recently adopted regulatory frameworks in Hungary and Portugal. The German licensing fiasco and the perspectives for the adoption of the Dutch law were also introduced, followed by updates on the current situation in UK, Isle of Man and Malta. The opening of the panel discussion dedicated to regulatory updates from Eastern Europe was marked by few words regarding the importance of regulation. “Any regulator when engaging in the process of re-regulation, must ask themselves – What is good regulation? The two main things to keep in mind are: Are we able to channel effectively to the regulated offer? Secondly, is the national law that we are putting into place complying with the EU law?” stated the moderator Ekaterina Alexandrova, Senior Legal Advisor at the European Gaming & Betting Association (EGBA).The audience’s attention was caught by the “Protection against fraud and money laundering” panel, which has been one of the hot topics for the industry this year where leading representatives of international associations and organizations presented the 4th Anti-Money Laundering Directive (AMLD) and its implementation for gambling establishments. According to Paul Davis, Barrister & Solicitor at Group General Counsel “This is very much the time of anti-money laundering and countering of terrorist financing (AML/CTF) which are a huge buzzword and a huge watchword in our industry and legislation has to be brought up to speed and processes, and procedures must keep pace with the changes that are required in the international marketplace… Legislation needs to live, breath and evolve!” Dr. Corinne Gatt from Malta Gaming Authority shared her concerns that “It is still very difficult on how we are going to deal with 28 different implementations of the Directive, 28 different risk based assessments, 28 different CDD and SDD processes. This is a very big challenge and not only for the authorities, but it is going to be a little bit more difficult for operators.”
During the next session the official partnering association International Masters of Gaming Law (IMGL) hosted the traditional IMGL Masterclass, which this year was dedicated to the topic “Point of Consumption in the UK and elsewhere and its impact on so called offshore jurisdictions”.
The second part of the conference day was covered by the challenges and perspectives of the gaming industry development in the Eastern Europe followed by the current Responsible Gaming topic. The dynamic development of the gaming industry in the region has marked many challenges for the remote gaming operators, which were outlined during the session and good practices were exchanged by the honorable speakers.
The next discussion marked the Responsible Gaming which has occurred to be one of the hot topics particularly in the Eastern Europe for the past year, but also worldwide in general. The dedicated panel observed players protection from gambling addiction and good practices by the two biggest Romanian gaming associations – ROMBET and ROMSLOT and Bulgaria and was moderated by Pieter Remmers who is well versed in the subject from many years.
The pressing question “Does remote gaming have a negative impact on the land-based industry?” was raised firstly during the press conference and secondly, more broadly reviewed during the panel dedicated to the convergence between land-based and online business. Should the land-based industry see an enemy in the face of the online or this opportunity to work together hand in hand could become a winning synergy? The fruitful discussion was also a matter of great interest with a special support by the speakers from one of the leading companies, which also gave useful ideas for those who plan to start an online business.
And last, but not least was the interactive session “Customer experience transformation”, in which 5 distinguished experts from land-based and online sectors presented tips and strategies to operators in a discussion format. Delegates had the opportunity to learn and benefit from the experts’ experience on how to understand, attract and build strong relationships with their customers.
Traditionally, at the first day of the conference the Regulators Roundtable was held, under the patronage of the Bulgarian State Commission on Gambling, which historically has been a “hot topics” discussion between Regulators from around the world where they are able to exchangegood practices and know-how. Participants from the following countries: Portugal, Lithuania, Malta, Gibraltar, Aland Islands and Bulgaria had the chance to discuss this year’s topic “Online gambling and administrative cooperation between regulators”.
The second conference day began with a special initiative hosted for a second year during EEGS – the Global Gaming Woman networking event, organized together with the American Gaming Association. Gambling tourism has been one of the key factors for the gaming industry development in the Eastern European region and its dedicated panel outlined the current situation and perspectives for its improvement. On the spotlight of this panel was Carlos Siu Lam, a researcher from Macao, , who attracted the audience and all delegates with interesting examples about the junket business experienced in the Asian gambling capital.
The 8th edition of Eastern European Gaming Summit marked the launch of the Gaming StartUp Challenge – a competition towards new companies in the gaming sector in which they can present their bold and innovative ideas. With inspiring presentation and attractive game development, driven by music, Dimitar Tsaprev from Dreamteck conquered the audience and jury and won the first place in Gaming StartUp Challenge 2015.
Traditionally, the sessions during the second day focus on the trends in different gaming product verticals. The sports betting panel highlighted the rising popularity of virtual and eSports. According to Borislav Borisov, Chief Operating Officer at UltraPlay “eSports can be considered like the “football” in sports betting for the Millenials” and their popularity will keep rising in the next few years as that generation come into the focus of operators worldwide. Virtual sports were presented by one of the leading companies in this product vertical – Vermantia.
During the session dedicated to social and mobile gaming were presented the emerging opportunities that come up with the thriving of social platforms and social casino gaming. Also, this panel highlighted the multi-channel gaming as a key factor for the future success of all gaming products and how to stay competitive in an increasingly digital environment.
One of the most interesting sessions being last but not least in the 8th edition of EEGS turned to be the panel dedicated to the most exciting poker matters and what are the perspectives in changing its decline. Nicolas Levy, co-founder of the popular poker social platform RankingHero analyzed the different motivations of poker players and shared case studies to highlight what works and what doesn’t when devising strategies for a growing poker liquidity. Vinko Dobrosevic, Founder of IGSoft and CEO of PokerKing presented the evolution of poker followed by Lydia Barbara, Head of Pegasus Gaming Solutions made a fruitful presentation about the transparency problems. In conclusion, the 8th edition of the most significant forum for the gaming industry in the Balkans and Eastern Europe was very successful and fruitful for all delegates and participants. Organizers are delighted with how the event went and extremely thankful to all speakers, delegates and everyone who have participated in that successful edition! We are all looking forward to the next edition in November 2016!
Lyubomira Petrova, PR Expert
January 14th, 2016